Max Verstappen was second for Red Bull, Carlos Sainz very impressive third for McLaren and Valtteri Bottas fourth for Mercedes. The rain was at its strongest during the last session, with a touch and a feeling of grip at a higher level. Hamilton turned out to have it in abundance.
The pilots traveled the entire third quarter, reducing their time. Verstappen set the initial pace, but Hamilton quickly matched and improved it, as did Bottas. They were places of exchange when the tires warmed up, the grip improved and the countdown ended.However, it was Hamilton, as he had so often done in the past, who had the best touches. Their last lap of 1m 19.273sec was sublime under the circumstances, as Verstappen proved how well they were driving, losing their car in the last corner. Hamilton finished more than a second ahead of Verstappen. Bottas in an identical Mercedes was almost a second and a half from his teammate.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms meant that there was no race at the last practice session on Saturday morning and that some expected that qualifying would be postponed until Sunday morning. However, they managed to compete after the start of the session was delayed by 45 minutes.
When the first quarter started, all drivers used fully wet tires, with Hamilton setting the best time in difficult conditions. The rain continued and became heavier, but the second quarter went as planned with the British driver once again in the lead. Dry conditions are expected for the race on Sunday.
Ferrari endured another poor qualification with Sebastian Vettel placing in Q3 and finishing 10th. His teammate Charles Leclerc was eliminated in Q2 in 11th place. The Hungarian government has announced that it will consider imprisonment or a fine of £ 15,000 if British team members break restrictions for next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest. After the Austrian GP Bottas and Leclerc were investigated by the FIA for potentially breaking the Covid-19 sport protocols when they returned home to Monaco between races.
Bottas remained in his social bubble and was deleted, but Leclerc received a warning. Similar actions will not be tolerated in Hungary. The government has told the teams that all staff in the UK and third countries must stay on the track or in their accommodation at all times. Seven of the F1 teams are based in the United Kingdom.
It is the first time that F1 has raced on the same circuit twice in the same season and the sport hoped to build on what has been a successful opening of the season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, F1 organized its first GP under its Covid-19 protocols. He has now administered more than 9,000 tests in teams and staff and has yet to register any virus cases.
The 89th pole position in career in Hamilton is the perfect return to the opening of the season, he wanted to be beaten by Bottas to pole last week and suffer a penalty in the race bringing him back to fourth place. He struggled for rhythm this weekend, with Mercedes unable to identify why the car lacked grip and balance in slow and fast corners.
However, he plugged it in on Saturday and proved once again that he has an immaculate touch in the wet. It is his third pole in Austria but he won the race only once in 2016.
Hamilton was happy with his racing pace last week and believed he could have challenged Bottas for the win. However, the team was very concerned about the electrical problems in the gearbox, exacerbated by the vibrations caused by passing over the curbs.
They tried to solve the problem but admitted that there was no quick fix. The team remains cautious and Hamilton will try to dictate the race ahead with as little pressure as possible on his car.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth, but will be penalized three places on the grid for passing under the yellow flags during practice. Alexander Albon was seventh for Red Bull. Esteban Ocon of Renault was fifth with teammate Daniel Ricciardo in ninth. Pierre Gasly from AlphaTauri was eighth.
George Russell did a superb job for Williams to put his car in Q2, the first time the team has managed to do so since 2018. He finished in 12th place. Lance Stroll was 13th for Racing Point ahead of the AlphaTauri by Daniil Kvyat and the Haas by Kevin Magnussen.
The Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were released on the 16th and 19th. Sergio Pérez was 17th for Racing Point ahead of the Nicholas Latifi Williams. Romain Grosjean did not set a time for Haas in 20th position.